Title: Myōshu 妙手 (an "inspired move", a move which turns a game around or otherwise exceeds expectations. An example of one such move might be seen in the ear reddening move played by Honinbō Shūsaku in 1846, during what is considered to be his most famous game. - Wikipedia)
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Hotta Yumi and Obata Takeshi. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.The games played in the story are recent official Go games. I only own the plot and Akiyama Kouta, 6-dan.
Words: 6 847
Warnings: First Hikaru no Go fan fiction, non-existent Go-knowledge, unexplainable return from the dead, possible OOC-ness, randomly jumping POWs, switching from present to past tense, one-shot.
Summary: An unexpected member of the audience in the Hokuto Cup reveals the truth behind Shindō Hikaru's Go skills.
A/N: This "story" was one of the first visions I had after finishing reading the manga last autumn and I finally got around to writing it after re-reading the entire series. I haven't encountered other stories of this genre that take place after canon (or at least they don't outright say that they take place after the series end) which is a bit sad as I am a big fan of the Hokuto Cup. I see it as a necessary thing because during it, and during the year between then and Sai's disappearance, Hikaru grows a lot as a person.
And I'm not in any way trying to copy esama's "Trial and error" (which is GREAT, go and read it and it's prequel "Watch and learn"). I just came to same conclusions as s/he with my research.
And yes, the ending is rushed.
He feels his heart beating in excitement as he clenches his hands tightly in his lap. He can see it; the path to victory. He leans forward in his seat, biting his lip, eyes glued to the screen in the other end of the room.
I know you can see it, Hikaru. Just calm down and play.
His lips curve into a victorious smile. Hikaru saw it and attacked. Now the young pro just had to follow through with it and he knows it will be hard; this Ko Yeoung-ha is a strong opponent but he isn't too worried. He has complete confidence in Hikaru.
You've grown, Hikaru. He smiles. Your Go has grown as well; I can't wait to play you again.
He lets his gaze follow the stones placed on the goban and he has a hard time trying to keep himself from jumping up and down. His fingers twitch in anticipation and he stills them with a stern thought. Not yet. This is Hikaru's game, Hikaru's Go.
Hikaru is catching up to the Korean with a rapid pace but the other pro isn't giving in at all. The goban is turning into a bloody battlefield and he knows it will be close game. He cannot see who'll emerge as a winner but he knows it will be a well-earned win, no matter whom the victor is.
He stills and his eyes widen. This is a strong move and extremely hard to counter, at least in this particular situation. It will go into atari if Hikaru tries to retrieve it… and white can use that time to secure territory… It seems Ko Yeoung-ha is a tricky opponent.
He leans back in his chair, lips pursed, contemplating the move.
After that move game turns into the Korean's advantage but it doesn't make the game less interesting. On the contrary, the game moved into a completely different level. He frowns softly. Hikaru is clearly struggling but the game is nearing its end.
He can already see the end result. He smiles softly and feels warmth spreading through him. It's a beautiful game, Hikaru. Sadly, it won't be enough.
His gaze flickers to the other two boards. Tōya Akira's opponent, Irufhang (he really can't keep track of all these weird, foreign names...) resigned and on the third board Yashiro Kiyoharu lost to young Hon Su-Young by 3,5 moku. He remembers clearly the game between young Korean pro, then Kenkyūsei, and Hikaru. It is one of the most beautiful games Hikaru has ever played.
His gaze moves back to Hikaru's game. He flicks open his fan, hiding his smile as the players start to count the territory. Half a moku… You did well, Hikaru.
He can feel the tension among the rest of the audience; he can hear the whispers, asking who won.
"Is it enough? Shindō?"
"How is it going to end?"
He recognizes Hikaru's friends and his lips twitch. He can tell they're awed at their friend's skills in this game and he has the urge to gloat that he had taught Hikaru to play, that Hikaru is his student. But he doesn't, and just smiles behind his pale yellow fan, listening to audience's clapping and exclamations of awe.
It's time we meet again, Hikaru. He chuckles as he rises to his feet, ignoring the more disappointed and annoyed comments from the audience. Besides, Kawai-san is keeping them in control.
Hikaru followed Tōya and Yashiro out of the game room, wiping his tears. He kept his gaze at Tōya's straight back, trying not to meet anyone's eyes. He had been saying that he would win but in the end he had lost. He knew it was only by a small margin but that was why it stung so strongly. A measly half a moku had kept him from defending Shūsaku's – Sai's – honour. He knew Sai would be disappointed in the result but not the game.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He wished fervently that Sai had been there to see that game, despite the fact that he had lost. I've grown and my Go has grown. I wonder if he would have been proud of me...
"That was a beautiful game, Hikaru", a serene voice rang through the lobby.
Hikaru froze, his eyes widening almost comically. He knew that soft, gentle voice that at times would turn childish and whiny. He hadn't heard it since that day, exactly a year ago… and he had been sure that he would never hear it again. His breath quickened as he turned his gaze towards the source of the voice.
There, standing against the wall, was a man in his early twenties, dressed in a simple suit. His long, dark hair was pulled into a low ponytail at nape of his neck and on his face was a soft, fond smile. In his long fingered hands was a pale yellow fan.
Yashiro and Tōya had stopped at the comment and turned to look at their team mate who was staring awe-struck at the unknown man. Neither Hikaru nor the man paid them any mind.
"Y-you…" Hikaru stammered. "A-are you really…?"
The man's smile widened marginally at the quaver in his pupil's voice and he stepped away from the wall, closer to Hikaru.
"Yes", he said softly. "It's really me."
Tears sprang into Hikaru's eyes and before anyone in the lobby knew what had happened, the boy had half-ran into the young man's arms. Hikaru let his arms wrap tightly around his waist as he let out a soft sob of "Sai" that went unheard by everyone but the two of them.
"Hush", the young man murmured into Hikaru's hair. "I'm here." His own arms tightened their hold of Hikaru involuntarily, relishing his ability to touch things again.
"Y-you came b-back", Hikaru choked into his shoulder. "W-why d-did you l-leave?"
The young Go pro's cries were gaining volume and Sai could feel him trembling. He did his best to ignore their audience as he petted Hikaru's short hair. He could feel the beginnings of tears in his own eyes and Sai bit his lip and blinked the tears away. The smile never left his face.
"Shindō?" came a questioning voice. Sai looked up to see that Hikaru's team mates had come nearer and were eyeing his pupil worriedly.
Sai offered the duo an apologetic smile. "Excuse him, and me, for this. He's a bit overwhelmed after the game and my... return."
"It's alright", Yashiro Kiyoharu assured him, running a hand nervously through his messy, silver-coloured hair. He didn't seem to know what to make of the situation and Sai didn't blame him. He himself was a bit disoriented. He hadn't known that seeing Hikaru again would make him this… unhinged, him, who spent years in the Heian capital, in the presence of the Emperor himself. There hadn't been any place for emotions and Sai had been an expert in hiding them as etiquette demanded.
Tōya Akira only glanced at him suspiciously before asking in a biting voice; "May I ask who you are, sir?"
Sai had a moment of panic, wondering how he should answer the inquiry. Hikaru had been very close-mouthed about how he had been introduced to Go when it came to the pro world. Sai didn't know if Hikaru had expanded his explanations in any way and thus didn't know how he would be able to fit himself into it.
"He is my teacher", Hikaru said in a choked voice. "And my friend."
The duo blinked, surprised at the answer. It was a well-known fact in the Go-world that Shindō Hikaru did not, in fact, have an official mentor. Tōya's gaze landed on the fan still clasped in the man's hand. It was very similar to the fan Shindō himself carried around. He remembered wondering why the boy had started carrying it almost a year ago. It had been right after Shindō's two month disappearance.
Sai smiled somewhat sadly as Hikaru pulled away from the hug, composing himself. Sai kept his hand on Hikaru's shoulder as if to reassure the boy that he wasn't going anywhere. The smaller part of his brain informed Sai that he was also reassuring himself of actually being physically here.
Hikaru looked up at him, eyes shining, mouth stretched into a wide, if a bit teary, smile. Sai felt his own smile widening in answer. It felt good to be needed, to exist. It was also good to see Hikaru smile again after the year apart. He hadn't known how much he would miss it.
"Would you introduce us, Hikaru?" Sai prompted gently. After all, he hadn't officially met any of Hikaru's acquaintances or friends.
"This is Tōya Akira, 3-dan", Hikaru said after pulling himself together. "I've told you about him."
Sai's eyes twinkled in amusement as he nodded to the dark haired pro. "Your eternal rival."
Both Hikaru and Tōya blushed and shot quick glances at each other before looking away again. Yashiro rolled his eyes heavenward, muttering to himself. Sai just chuckled, relishing the feeling of being able to interact with these people.
"Anyway", Hikaru said, continuing 'the show'. "And this is Yashiro Kiyoharu, Beginner Dan."
The Go pros offered Sai quick, formal bows. "Nice to meet you", to which Sai returned in kind.
"And this", Hikaru's smile was turning positively evil as he indicated towards Sai. "is the person who taught me Go, Fujiwara Sai."
Tōya froze into an extremely uncomfortable looking position. Sai fought against his urge to smile but lost and hid his smile behind his fan again.
"'Sai'?" Tōya-kun asked in a weak voice.
"Your father is a very strong opponent, Tōya-kun", Sai assured the boy seriously.
The boy looked up with a gob-smacked expression on his face. Yashiro just looked confusedly between the two, with an occasional bewildered glance towards the snickering Hikaru.
Tōya seemed to recognize Hikaru's mirth and whipped his head around to glare at the other boy. "You! You knew who Sai was this whole time!" the dark-haired pro growled out.
Hikaru was gasping for breath as he stuttered out; "Y-your face..." And he collapsed into giggles again. Sai wondered whether he should rebuke his student for his bad manners but decided against it.
"Ummm... Could someone please tell me what the hell is going on?" Yashiro was getting annoyed at this weird turn of the conversation.
Tōya shot a sour glance at the giggling Hikaru before answering. "A few years back there was a very strong Go player in the net. A year ago he played against my father and won." Yashiro's eyebrows shot into his hairline. "His nick on the net was 'sai' and no one knew who he was." Tōya's glare intensified. "Except apparently Shindō."
"Now now, Tōya-kun", Sai placed a placating hand on the boy's shoulder. "I asked Hikaru to keep it quiet as I wasn't in any condition to play anyone in person." The long-haired man shot a narrow-eyed look at his pupil at this point and Hikaru swallowed down his giggles immediately.
Tōya nodded flushing. He was probably very sick though that doesn't necessarily explain Shindō's reaction. "My father wishes to – "
"There you three are!" came an annoyed shout and the quartet turned to look towards the doors, only to meet the unhappy gaze of their team leader, Kurata Atsushi, 7-dan.
"Everyone is waiting for you and here you just mingle with some random person!" the stocky pro player continued in affronted tone.
'Some random person'? Hikaru stared disbelievingly at Kurata, his amusement vanishing and turning into indignation. Sai isn't just 'some random person'! Meanwhile Sai's eyes narrowed dangerously as he eyed Kurata like a cat would eye a very fat mouse it planned to have for breakfast.
"Do excuse us, Kurata-san", Tōya interrupted smoothly before Fujiwara-san could challenge the older pro into a game or Shindō could maim him by other means. "Shindō was just introducing us to his teacher, Fujiwara Sai-san."
Kurata looked surprised. "I thought you didn't have a teacher."
Shindō blushed and stared at his dress shoes. "He… he was pretty sick most of the time. And I knew other pros would want to meet him so it was… better for his health to remain as an… unknown entity."
Sai had to hide his smile behind his fan again at Hikaru's explanation. His Hikaru was using big words, he thought giddily.
Kurata nodded seriously at the explanation and turned to the long-haired man. "Well, you could join the festivities", the pro smiled cheerfully. "I'm Kurata Atsushi, the Future Kisei! You can have my autograph!"
Sai smiled sweetly. The man seemed to be as insufferable as a year ago, despite being a good person at heart. "I can take your autograph if you beat me in a match."
Kurata blinked, shocked at the proclamation. The teenagers just glanced at each other, Yashiro wondering if the whole thing was just a fluke and Tōya and Hikaru agreeing that Sai would trounce the pro.
Then the pro burst out laughing. "You're planning to beat me? Hahhaaa!" He slapped Sai to the back. "You're a funny guy, Fujiwara-san. Planning to beat the Great Kurata-sama!" Kurata snickered and simply started ushering the younger pros towards the awarding ceremony, ignoring Sai completely.
"Indeed", Sai observed as he planted his hand to Hikaru's shoulder and followed the trio of pros with his pupil.
They didn't stick around for long after that. Hikaru only visited the stage briefly with a wide smile on his face to thank the audience before grapping Sai by the sleeve and leaving. Sai tried to point Hikaru to spent time with his team mates but the boy wouldn't hear any of his teacher's protests.
"I haven't seen you in a year and I'm not about to ditch you for people I've been living with for the last week."
Despite Hikaru's insulting and rude speech, Sai was relieved. He had missed Hikaru terribly and he was still itching for a match. Their last game hadn't been a very satisfying one, not with how few hands they actually played. He still remembered all of them… He also remembered Hikaru's vacant gaze on the goban and his own silent… pain of fading away.
"Do you want a game, Sai?"
Sai blinked and looked down at Hikaru, looking inquiringly, eyes bright, up at him. Sai felt his face breaking into a smile. The mental connection between them didn't exist anymore but at that moment Sai was ready to swear that Hikaru could read his thoughts.
"I'd love to, Hikaru", he said, his hold of his fan tightening and his heart beat accelerating.
Sai didn't know if it was coincidence or not when he and Hikaru encountered no one at the Shindō residence when they arrived. He didn't however have too much time to think about it before Hikaru pulled him upstairs. Sai reflected for a moment how their roles had been reversed a year ago; with him doing the pulling and Hikaru following like a zombie.
Soon both the teacher and student were sitting on the floor with a goban between them. Nigiri wasn't used; Sai always played white against his students, even now when komi was used.
"Please", Hikaru said bowing.
"Please", Sai said softly, returning to the gesture.
Hikaru met his gaze over the goban and placed his first stone.
Pa-chi! the stone hit the board at 3-4 point, komoku.
Sai smiled, relishing the feel of the stone between his finger-tips, before placing it on the upper left hoshi, at the 4-4 point.
Hikaru retaliated at lower right hoshi, to which Sai answered with the 16-17 in the lower left corner.
Pa-chi! Black 5-3
Pa-chi! White 17-15
Pa-chi! Black 4-10
Hikaru was trying to secure the right side of the board while Sai's influence was concentrated on the left side. Time to make things interesting…
Pa-chi! White 6-17
Sai's lips twitched as Hikaru clenched his hands. He had started his attack.
The game was just like any other Sai had played during his life and afterlife. The starting moves were perfectly ordinary but despite all this, Sai's eyes shone with light and his smile could blind even the sun itself. He had missed this; playing for himself with an opponent he respected, not hiding behind Torajirō or Hikaru or that magic box, computer.
Neither of them noted the passing of time when Sai established a white territory in the lower right corner with Hikaru fighting him tooth and nail every step on the way.
But neither of them cared too much about that either. They were just enjoying playing each other after so long.
Hikaru stopped to ponder his move. Sai's control over the lower right of the board was too strong to do anything with the way things now were. He straightened his back, taking the black stone between his middle- and forefingers. Time to retaliate!
The stone hit the board at 15-17, attacking the lower left side which had been left alone since the start of the game.
…and played 13-17, reducing Hikaru's territory at the lower side.
Hikaru's eyes narrowed and played lower left hoshi, intending to take the white stone next to it at the 16-17 point. That stone had only two liberties left…
Sai extended at 17-17 and glanced up.
Hikaru switched his target, intent on securing the lower side for himself. They exchanged a few blows before Sai hmm'd amusedly and attacked the upper right corner at the 3-5 point.
After that it didn't take long for their fight to move towards the middle, where Hikaru build strong walls to keep Sai from cutting his stones. From there the fight moved to the upper left, with sai cutting Hikaru's stones at every chance he got.
Hikaru pursed his lips. He knew he could never win this game but because of this, he played to his fullest, knowing that he himself wouldn't be satisfied with the game if he didn't. He also knew that Sai had probably wished for this game for years, maybe even since the day he ended his life.
Ko fight broke out at the lower left corner and both of them used it as chance to strengthen their defences around the board.
Hikaru gritted his teeth. He had his fair share of territory but Sai was dominating over the board. He could see several ways to possibly win… if his opponent was someone else than Sai. Well… it's all or nothing! he decided.
Pa-chi! Black 17-16
Pa-chi! White 16-15
Pa-chi! Hikaru wasn't going to give up on the Ko fight!
Pa-chi! Sai retaliated at the upper right…
Pa-chi! …and Hikaru closed it in at 6-2 point.
Pa-chi! Sai played 18-13, continuing the Ko fight again.
Hikaru narrowed his eyes. He wasn't ready to give up just yet!
Pa-chi! Black 15-16
Sai calmly connected his stones at 15-18 point, making the lower side of the board firmly his territory.
Hikaru placed a frustrated stone at the 17-13 point, continuing the Ko fight.
Sai strengthened his hold of the upper right corner. Hikaru could see his opinions starting to disappear at an alarming rate as he retaliated at 2-1 point.
Sai placed his move on 18-13, taking another stone and continuing the Ko fight, before looking up at his pupil. Hikaru's gaze ran over the goban as the boy tapped his knee thoughtfully with his fan, eyes intent.
They both could see that Sai had complete control over the left side of the board, whereas Hikaru only had a strong hold on the upper side. And when taking komi into account…
They sat in silence before Hikaru smiled softly, bowing his head.
Hikaru leant back, stretching his arms and yawned. Sai let out an amused chuckle at the overacted tiredness.
"Man, I'm beat", the boy declared, peeking at Sai from underneath his bleached bangs. "You aren't giving a poor Japanese representative any mercy, Sai. Have a heart, I already lost today."
"Hmph, you would have won if you'd played carefully", Sai huffed.
"Not against you", Hikaru said softly, gazing down at the game on the goban between them.
Sai let out a tired sigh and smiled. "If that's your mindset you'll never win. You know that very well. After all, it was one of the first lessons you learned."
Hikaru flushed at the reprimand but didn't otherwise react. Sai wondered for a fleeting moment if he should have taken it easy against his pupil but discarded the idea quickly. Even as a beginner, Hikaru had always insisted that he wouldn't hold back, so the two of them had never even really played Shidō-Go against each other. Hikaru would have been insulted if Sai had taken it easy now of all times.
They sat in silence for a while, basking in each other's presence. Hikaru's eyes were closed and his lips were tilted upwards in a small, content smile. Sai watched him quietly, gazing down at their finished game from time to time.
It was just like back then. Only… Sai smiled. This time around he was really here.
"Why did you leave?" Hikaru's soft question brought him out of his musings.
Sai pondered for a moment how to answer. "My game with that man", he started. "had another meaning besides the two of us playing."
Hikaru looked confused. Sai didn't fault him for it.
"That game was meant to be seen by a certain person, a person who might someday be the one to reach the Hand of God", Sai continued, gazing into Hikaru's green eyes.
"Was it seen?" Hikaru asked hesitantly.
Sai smiled slightly. "Yes. That person indeed went above the two of us, by seeing Tōya Kōyo's path to victory, while neither of us saw it."
Hikaru's eyes slowly widened at the implications. "M-me?" he squeaked disbelievingly.
"Yes, you", Sai agreed. "I don't even claim to understand it but that's how it is." His gaze softened slightly. "After that game I realised that I didn't have much time left in this world and the fading stains on Torajirō's goban only confirmed that feeling."
Hikaru's breath hitched, clearly forgetting about his own possible destiny. "Back then… you said you would disappear soon…" the boy's eyes were wide and Sai felt his heart clench in compassion. "And I… didn't believe you…" He looked about ready to burst into tears for a third time that day.
"It's alright, Hikaru. I'm here now, for real this time", Sai smiled and leaned over the goban to give his pupil a hug.
"Yeah…" Hikaru whispered and Sai felt the boy's hold of his dress shirt tighten. "You are."
The next several days were spent reminiscing "the good old days"; walking in the town and talking and, of course, playing. Hikaru was silently thankful that he didn't have a game scheduled for Wednesday as it gave them three days to recuperate.
Those three days weren't all fun and games however, because being introduced to Hikaru's parents was a nerve-wrecking experience for Sai but they took it in a good grace. Hikaru's mother smiled and thanked him for helping Hikaru find his calling and Hikaru's grandfather demanded a game to which Sai happily obliged.
He won, of course.
When asked how they met, they said they "had just run into each other" and that Hikaru had noticed Sai studying some kifu. He had gotten curious and Sai had started teaching him a while later.
Hikaru made it his goal to avoid all of his pro friends but he did introduce Sai to Akari. The meeting ended with Akari skipping happily away with several new pieces of advice on how to improve her Go.
Sai also shared with Hikaru what had happened to him after that day.
After fading, Sai had woken up in a hospital in Kyoto where, after realizing he was actually real now, he proceeded to fake very throughout amnesia. That explained away his lack of knowledge and the lack of family, so the government paid his bills without too much trouble. It also gave him an excuse to learn more about the modern world and the nurses and therapists had been happy enough to explain how airplanes and microwave ovens worked.
Then, about three months previous, when he "suddenly" remembered his name, he was offered a chance to write up his own temporary legal documents. Sai had filled the papers as accurately as he could, considering. He had put in his real name and birthday (with a winged birth year) but left all the other things pertaining to his past empty.
Using the documents the hospital staff and the government had both tried to track down any Fujiwara family members who would know him. There had been no success but Sai had assured the distressed nurses that he didn't mind because he had a feeling that he hadn't really had the best possible relationship with his family. That had also been a calculated half-truth; after all, Sai had been banished from the capital as a cheater. He hadn't really been liked by his family after losing to the other Go instructor and like Hikaru had found out a year before, his name had been erased from all documents pertaining Fujiwara family or the Emperor's Go instructors.
During that time Sai had also started to drop hints of knowing Hikaru. Go had been the one thing his "amnesia" hadn't made him forget so the doctors thought it natural that his memories would build from there. They had been quite happy to fund Sai's trip to Tokyo to watch Hokuto Cup and talk with Hikaru. For the duration of the trip, Sai was staying at the hospital nearby.
When Hikaru's grandfather found out about Sai's situation, the old man insisted that Sai move to his house. There was certainly enough space there and Sai could play as much as he wanted. Sai had happily agreed and contacted his doctors in Kyoto to tell them that he was alright and could stay at his student's grandfather's house.
Afterwards Hikaru had informed Sai that he would probably end up living there for the rest of his life. This became essentially clear after Hikaru's grandmother concluded that Sai was way too thin for it to be normal.
Sai didn't mind. The Shindō family had all but adopted him and it felt good to have a family of sorts again.
Of course, after this observation, Hikaru had cheekily asked if he should call Sai "nii-chan" now.
Sai had retaliated by telling him how unruly younger siblings had been disciplined during the Heian period, after which he assured that he wouldn't mind being his brother.
Hikaru didn't know whether Sai was joking or not.
Those days were also spent avoiding the subject of the pro Go world. They both knew that everyone would demand a game against Sai and they accepted it as a proof of his skills, but that didn't mean they didn't resent it. The games would eat most of Sai's time and neither he nor Hikaru were ready to spend too much time away from each other yet.
In the spite of this, Hikaru did have his re-match with Hon Su-Young at the Go salon the day after the Hokuto Cup. The setting was almost identical compared to the time two years earlier; most, if not all, the customers crowding around their table, watching as the two young pros battled. This time around there was no Waya or Isumi-san watching from behind his shoulders. Instead, this time Sai sat next to him, hiding his smile behind his pale yellow fan.
The customers had given the unknown man a few odd looks but otherwise left him alone.
The game itself was played on a much higher level than the one two years ago and both boys enjoyed it immensely. To Hikaru, it didn't exactly compare to his games with Tōya or the game with Ko Yeoung-ha, but it was still satisfying, knowing he was no pushover. Su-Young took his loss with a good grace and they had a delightful after game discussion, which Sai took part in. Both boys learned from the game and were happy with the outcome. Su-Young seemed awed with meeting Sai and asked for a game.
Sai didn't have to be asked twice.
When they parted, the boys exchanged phone numbers for the purpose of calling each other out for a game any time the other visited the other's home country. Su-Young also hinted that he (and half the Korean pro world) would love to play against Sai.
Sai only smiled brightly and said that he would love to play as well. Hikaru sighed and rolled his eyes at his teacher's childish antics.
On Thursday, May 9th, four days after Hikaru's game with Ko Yeoung-ha, four days since he met Sai again… they decided to brave the pro world which had been suspiciously quiet as of late. Hikaru had been sure that Tōya would say something about Sai. But as there had been no rabid paparazzi, Waya or Ogata, he had been forced to conclude that his rival had kept his mouth shut.
They stood before the Japanese Go Association and from the corner of his eye, Hikaru could see Sai's hand trembling slightly.
"No need to be nervous, Sai. You'll cream them all", he said cheerfully.
"Hikaruu~!" Sai protested. "You can't know that! Not until you play!"
Hikaru laughed. He could already see that Sai wasn't as tense as before. "Then let's go in and play."
Sai blinked at him. Then he huffed and pouted, muttering under his breath. Hikaru was sure he heard the words "Hikaru" and "meanie" mentioned in the same sentence. The boy hummed and ignored his teacher, marching up to the doors, before turning to look at Sai.
"Are you coming?" he asked impatiently.
Sai followed him sulkily and Hikaru smiled. The ancient Go player had been pretty reserved the first few days, acting nothing like himself. Hikaru had been concerned, wondering if being dumped into a body had messed with Sai's brain. Now his worried about that were starting to disappear, with Sai acting more childishly as time went on.
That was why they had decided to come today. Despite enjoying his games with Hikaru, Sai was itching for variety and different styles of play. That, paired with Sai's decidedly un-Go player like behaviour, had prompted Hikaru to propose this trip. He couldn't wait to see everyone's faces.
He smirked cheerfully as he walked by the receptionist, who gave a questioning glance to Sai but didn't say anything.
"Who are you playing today?" Sai asked as they stepped into the elevator, apparently done sulking.
"It's the Kisei preliminary finals against…" Hikaru consulted a piece of paper from his pocket. "… Akiyama Kouta, 6-dan. The winner will be in the Kisei league."
Sai seemed impressed. "So if you win, you'll be playing against the higher dans…"
"… in a round-robin tournament", Hikaru finished. "I personally think I'm doing pretty well. Tōya made it to Honinbō league a year ago, but then he lost to Kurata-san and couldn't challenge for the title."
Sai nodded. He had read Go Weekly in the hospital and knew all of this. He could clearly see that Hikaru couldn't wait to start playing, his pupil had wanted to participate in the upper levels of tournaments for a long time and now he was almost there. The older man smiled lightly, he knew Hikaru was already dreaming about challenging the title holder. And the first game is next January… he shook his head.
Hikaru's progress was remarkable, everyone acknowledged that, but that was why his ranking was so disturbing. Hikaru was still a Beginner Dan, over a year after he started playing in official games. No one dared to underestimate him and many were muttering that he should be promoted already. Sai had to agree on that.
The game would be played in one of the smaller rooms, with only Hikaru, Akiyama and a recorder in the room itself. Those interested could watch it in another room via monitor. Sai would be going there as well and, as Hikaru was pretty sure, there would be other higher dans, along with his friends. Sai could make an impression and comment on the game.
When they neared the door of the observation room, they could already hear voices inside. Sai took a deep, calming breath and straightened his back, calling a determined expression to his face. Hikaru smiled slightly.
"Good luck, Sai", he said.
The once-ghost blinked down at him. "I should be saying that to you, Hikaru", he admonished.
The boy laughed a little. "I've got the easy job. I only have to play but you, on the other hand, have to socialise with people who have wanted to play you for ages."
Sai sighed but agreed. "Good luck, Hikaru", he only said and gave the boy a little hug.
Hikaru smiled before disappearing down the corridor, fan in hand and a smile on his face.
Sai shook his head fondly and stepped into the room.
Like Hikaru had thought, both Ogata Jyūdan, Gosei and Kuwabara Honinbō were in attendance along with Waya-kun, Isumi-san and Ochi-kun. From the normal "gang" only Tōya Akira was missing but if Sai knew the boy at all, he would appear sooner rather than later.
But he had more important matters to worry about at the moment. Others in the room were looking him up and down confusedly, clearly not recognizing him. His long hair drew some looks but Sai ignored that. There was absolutely nothing wrong with his hair.
"Good morning", he said pleasantly instead.
"Morning", the younger pros chorused.
"And may I inquire who you might be?" Kuwabara asked.
Sai smiled brightly. "Just a Go player", he assured the man.
Ogata snorted and dismissed him. Sai fought down the urge to roll his eyes and sat down.
They sat in silence, waiting for the game to start. The two older pros smoked like a pair of chimneys and the trio of younger pros were having a whispered conversation in the corner. Five minutes passed with Sai tapping the table absentmindedly with his fan.
"It's starting", Sai said, glancing up and sitting straighter in his chair. He noted that everyone else leant forward, looking more attentive.
Two hands had appeared on the screen, doing nigiri. Hikaru won black and started the game on the upper right hoshi. On the sixth move Akiyama attacked the right side of the board, which Hikaru had been establishing as an area under his influence. A small fight broke out in the corner before Akiyama decided he was outwitted there and proceeded to take control of the lower side of the board.
The fight moved there and to the lower left corner. Hikaru wasn't giving in at all and Akiyama seemed to be using moves to try different tactics, without much success.
"How's the game going?" came an out of breath voice from the door. Sai turned to look and smiled, seeing Tōya-kun holding himself up with the help of the door frame.
"Akiyama 6-dan is having some trouble", Sai said cheerfully. The boy's head snapped up, eyes wide and staring at Sai.
"Fujiwara-san!" he squeaked. "You're here too?"
The statement was unexpectedly rude coming from Tōya Akira and everyone seemed to agree on that. Even Tōya-kun who flushed deep red.
"You know him, Akira-kun?" Ogata asked, lighting another cigarette.
"Ah, no, not really", the boy said nervously. "We just met after the Hokuto Cup. He is Shindō's Go teacher."
"What?!" Waya-kun was gaping at Sai. "He said he didn't have a teacher!"
"Waya! Calm down", Isumi tried to placate the annoyed pro. Ochi only hmph'ed and muttered something about Shindō always causing commotion.
"Oh? Interesting", was Kuwabara's only comment to the situation. Ogata's eyebrows shot up high beneath his bangs.
Sai glanced around amusedly. "Yes, Hikaru's my student. I'm Fujiwara Sai, nice to meet you."
Ogata had been taking a drag from his cigarette and now almost choked on the nicotine. Waya fell from his chair, jaw slack, while everyone else was pretty much confused.
"'S-sai'?" Ogata coughed. "The Net Go player?"
Sai flipped his fan open, blushing slightly. "Aah, yes", he admitted nervously.
"My father would like a re-match against you, Fujiwara-san", Tōya interrupted, pushing a strand of hair behind his ear.
Sai's smile brightened considerably. "I would love to play against him again, Tōya-kun", he said happily. "It was one of the best games I've ever played."
"So Shindō really was lying", Ogata said sourly, glancing at the screen where the fight in the lower left corner had escalated, reaching almost the middle of the board.
"Do not fault him for that, Ogata-san", Sai protested. "I wasn't really in any condition to play anyone in person", he frowned. "And Hikaru was placing all the moves in my game against Tōya-kun's father and I really couldn't ask him to deal with overenthusiastic pros."He looked at Ogata meaningfully and to everyone's great shock, he blushed.
"Despite this being very interesting", Kuwabara interrupted. "we're all here to watch Shindō's match."
They quieted down after that, settling down to watch the game. Discussion broke out after that but Sai kept to himself. The discussion earlier had been very nerve wracking and he needed this time to calm down so he could concentrate on the game.
He couldn't hide for long and soon the pros around the recreated game were asking his opinion and listening closely. His knowledge of Hikaru's style and skills was better than others and he could see Hikaru's goals clearer on the goban.
Hikaru's opponent was strong but not strong enough. Hikaru was in control of the game and Sai felt proud of his student. Hikaru's influence was strong on three sides of the board whereas Akiyama was only in control on the left side of the board. Neither was giving up on the Ko fight in the lower right corner.
On the 233rd move, Hikaru won the Ko fight but didn't gain any territory from it. Although… neither did Akiyama 6-dan.
Awhile later another Ko fight broke out in the upper side of the board. There had been other chances for them but neither had taken the risk there Sai had actually been a bit surprised by it, knowing Hikaru's stubborn streak better than anyone else.
The game had moved into yose a while ago and now both players were securing their territories.
Sai sighed happily and smiled. "With komi, Hikaru won by 7,5 moku", he said and stood up, stretching.
Before others could react to his proclamation, he had already stepped out from the observation room and was making his way towards the game room.
He opened the sliding door and smiled down at his student. "Congratulations, Hikaru, on entering the Kisei league."
The boy's excited smile widened and he stepped up to give his teacher a tight hug.
"I'm happy you're here, Sai", he whispered.
"I'm happy to be here, Hikaru", Sai said softly and hugged the young pro back.
"Oi! Shindō!" Waya's annoyed voice broke through the moment. "You bastard! You were Sai's student the whole time!"
Hikaru went beet red on the face and tried to stutter some manner of an explanation. At this point everyone else from the observation room had joined, either congratulating Hikaru or demanding an explanation regarding Sai.
"Oh, the game is over, then?" Amano from the Weekly Go was standing beside the door. "Congratulations, Shindō-kun, on entering the Kisei league and", the man looked down at the paper in his hand, "the promotion. You're now officially a 2-dan."
"Finally!" Sai huffed before turning to look at Hikaru. "You do know that I'm appalled about that string of forfeits, don't you? I would've come and hit you over the head if I hadn't had amnesia!"
Hikaru flinched and ducked his head, muttering about "not needing to be so violent". But he was smiling. Sai was there, in flesh, enjoying his life and keeping an eye on Hikaru. The boy really couldn't ask for anything else (besides winning against Tōya in an official match). He had what he wanted and from now on Sai could play as much he wanted by himself. Hikaru didn't need to make the moves for Sai anymore and Sai wouldn't be as alone anymore either.
"Well, let's discuss the game", Tōya piped up.
"Yeah", Hikaru smiled and sat back down beside the goban, ready to get chewed out for his bad moves by both Sai and Tōya.
He couldn't wait for his next game and Hikaru knew that Sai was equally eager for his next game against Tōya Kōyo.
He glanced at sai through his blond bangs and smiled. One, unexpected and inspired move by the God right after the Hokuto Cup had made his life fuller than ever before. In his mind Hikaru thanked the God of Go for this chance of life Sai had been given.
Notes about the Go related stuff:
The game between Hikaru and Sai is the second game from the 64th Honinbō finals this year (May 27th -28th 2009), played between the title holder Hane Naoki and Takao Shinji, the challenger (komi was 6,5 moku and Takao Shinji (white) won when Hane resigned).
Hikaru's Kisei preliminary finals game is the 53rd Kuksu preliminary finals game between Cho Hyeyeon (black) and Rui Naiwei, played on June 18th 2009. Komi was 6,5 moku and black won the game by 6,5 moku.
In the fic I used 5,5 moku komi, because it takes place earlier and we're all used to it.
27th Kisei preliminary finals took place on Thursday, May 9th 2002. I just couldn't resist putting Hikaru there :P
In Kisei tournament, you first have preliminaries, the six preliminary winners make it to the league. There, they're divided in two, A and B league where they play against seeded players (three seeded players in both A and B) in a round-robin tournament. The round-robin winners from A and B league then play each other for the right to challenge for the title. Then the challenger plays the title holder in a best of seven match.
A/N: That's it, my first Hikaru no Go fanfic, written over the span of a week.
BTW, I love reviews. Gimme some?